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Terribly immodest of me, I know… Click below to hear an excerpt from the Rush Limbaugh show on Thursday, 5/22/2008 where he reads from a post by Warner Todd Huston (of and quotes from the comments I made about the validity of public school diplomas vs. homeschool diplomas.

Hat tip to dittohead Ernie Blevins for the audio file and to Kay Brooks for editing out the pertinent three minutes!

Here’s a sampling of the incoming links on this topic:

Tennessee Mandates Low Quality Graduates Be Employed Over

20 hours ago by (Bill Smith)
Ken Marrero at “Blue Collar Muse” reports that. Recently, the Tennessee State Board of Education ruled diplomas issued to home-schooled students from religious based schools were invalid as proof of the successful completion of High
ARRA News Service –

Good enough for government work

22 May 2008 by Kay Brooks
The DOE’s characterization of private school (Category IV diplomas) as worthless made it national this afternoon as it moved from our own TennConserVOLiance writers to Warner Todd Houston at StopTheACLU and then on to Rush Limbaugh’s
Kay Brooks –

Tenn. Declares Only Dumbest Kids Wanted for State Jobs

22 May 2008 by Warner Todd Huston
It’s true. The State of Tennessee has officially declared that from this point forward it will accept only less educated student applicants for state, county and city jobs in the Volunteer State. Why would the kindly folks in Nashville
Default Site Weblog –

TN State Education Board Fails Research Test …

22 May 2008 by Blue Collar Muse
Editors Update and RePost: Thanks to Rob Shearer at Red Hat Rob and Warner Todd Huston, this story has received national attention. Rush Limbaugh read extensively from WTH’s post on the matter and mentioned both Warner and our own Rob
Blue Collar Muse –

Not worthless

21 May 2008 by Kay Brooks
Councilman Eric Crafton and his Save Our Students aren’t the only ones who can crunch the education statistics. Red Hat Rob Shearer has spent considerable time today going through the State of Tennessee Department of Education’s website
Kay Brooks –

Tennessee Makes Move Against Homeschooling

21 May 2008 by zee
It appears that my worst suspicions about public education are continuously confirmed these days. So, it isn’t really much of a surprise that the state of Tennessee prefers their employees to come from the dumbed down ranks of students
Road Sassy –

Tenn. Declares Only Dumbest Kids Wanted for State Jobs

21 May 2008 by Warner Todd Huston
-By Warner Todd Huston. It’s true. The State of Tennessee has officially declared that from this point forward it will accept only less educated student applicants for state, county and city jobs in the Volunteer State.
American Conservative Daily –

Homeschoolers – under attack all over?

20 May 2008
We had a small concern going on around here in NH where the Democratic (highly leveraged Teacher Union support) with an encircle and envelope strategy. Well put by Consent of the Governed:. The Live Free Or Die State wants to regulate
granitegrok –

Socialist “Curriculum” cannot penetrate home schools…therefore

19 May 2008 by Jenn Sierra
Rob Shearer, of Contending with the Culture, reports:. The Tennessee Department of Education has recently defended its decision not to recognize homeschool diplomas with the assertion that because they were prohibited from having
Ft. Hard Knox – http://forthardknox.comReferences

Tennessee Education Board Fails Research Test19 May 2008 by Blue Collar Muse
Recently, the Tennessee State Board of Education ruled diplomas issued to home-schooled students from religious based schools were invalid as proof of the successful completion of High School should it be presented for employment
New Media Alliance – Blue Collar Muse –

- Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

My good friend BlueCollarMuse had an excellent post on the topic of the TN DOE vs. Homeschool diplomas on May 19th on The post is titled TN State Education Board Fails Research Test …

His friend, Warner Todd Huston picked up on the issue and added some insightful commentary on May 21st on The post has the provocative headline,Tenn. Declares Only Dumbest Kids Wanted for State Jobs.

Today, May 22nd, Rush Limbaugh picked up on the story and read Mr. Huston’s post on the air, commented on it, and is now linking back from his website to (with a transcript of his on-air comments). Scroll down to story #12.

This afternoon (still 5/22/2008), Neil Boortz also picked up on the story. I don’t know if he said anything on the air, but he’s now linking back to the post by Huston as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the page – it’s in the fifth paragraph from the bottom.

Kay Brooks summarizes all of the saga on her blog here – along with some very nice excerpts and additional comments.

I’ve got a feeling the Tennessee Department of Education is not enjoying this very much… [heh]

- Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center

The Tennessee Department of Education has recently defended its decision not to recognize homeschool diplomas with the assertion that because they were prohibited from having anything to do with the selection of a curriculum, teachers, or textbooks in the church-related schools which “umbrella” homeschoolers they had no way to tell what a homeschool diploma represented.

So, the current status in Tennessee is that anyone from a public school (or a private accredited school) who presents a diploma in order to be hired as a daycare worker, police officer, fireman (or any other position which state law requires a high school diploma for) will be automatically accepted. Anyone who presents a homeschool diploma will be automatically rejected.

I have some news for the Department of Education officials. When a public school graduate presents a diploma, no one has any way to tell what it represents either. Did the ertswhile young graduate have an A average or a D- average? There is no minimum GPA requirement for graduation from a public high school in Tennessee. See the graduation requirements here on the Department of Education website for confirmation.

The final requirement on that page requiring a score of “proficient” on the three Gateway exams (Biology I, English II, Algebra I) has been altered, by the way. The Gateway exams are gone. They will be replaced with ten standard state-wide end-of-course tests that all public school students will be required to take. But the new tests won’t be high-stakes must-pass gateway exams. Instead, they will count as 25% of the student’s final grade in each of the ten designated courses.

Which only exacerbates the problem of how do you know what a public school diploma represents? Apparently it represents 20 courses, spread over four years (five per year) distributed over English, Math, Science, & Social Studies. In these four categories, only English is required to be taken in all four years of high school. So all you really know about a public school graduate with a high school diploma is that they at least passed 20 courses.

I don’t know of ANY private school, church-related school, or homeschool anywhere in Tennessee that requires LESS than 20 courses before they award a high school diploma. And yet, homeschool diplomas are automatically rejected by the Department of Education, while public school diplomas are automatically accepted.

In TN, 92% of high school graduates take the ACT test. In 2007 (the last year for which data was available) the average composite score for Tennessee high school grads was 20.7. Nationally it was 21.2.

And homeschoolers? The latest and largest study is from 1998, but since the ACT is so closely controlled statistically, it is possible to compare test scores from year to year. Here’s an excerpt from the ERIC clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation:

Home school students did quite well in 1998 on the ACT college entrance examination. They had an average ACT composite score of 22.8 which is .38 standard deviations above the national ACT average of 21.0 (ACT,1998).This places the average home school student in the 65th percentile of all ACT test takers.

The superior performance of home school students on achievement tests can easily be misinterpreted. This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools. It should not be cited as evidence that our public schools are failing. It does not indicate that children will perform better academically if they are home schooled. The design of this study and the data do not warrant such claims. All the comparisons of home school students with the general population and with the private school population in this report fail to consider a myriad of differences between home school and public school students. We have no information as to what the achievement levels of home school students would be had they been enrolled in public or private schools. This study only shows that a large group of parents choosing to make a commitment to home schooling were able to provide a very successful academic environment.

The full article is Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, by Lawrence Rudner, published in the peer-reviewed EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.

There are specific ACT results for homeschoolers in Tennessee for only one year:

YEAR : 2005
Homeschoolers : 20.7
All Students: 20.5
( ACT report, TN, 2005, page 17)

For some curious reason, ACT no longer reports the homeschool ACT scores separately in its reports for 2006 and 2007.

So, in summary: Homeschoolers as a group have superior performance on every nationally normed test for which data are available, significantly above the public school average. Homeschoolers in Tennessee, as a group, have average ACT scores at or above the ACT scores for all students.

AND YET… the Department of Education somehow BELIEVES that they can’t accept a homeschooling diploma because they don’t know what it represents. Given the incredibly wide variation of skills an achievement that can accompany a public school high school diploma, something about the pot, the kettle, and the color black occurs to me. Class…? Class…? Anyone…? Bueller…?

Colleges and universities across the country have faced this problem for years. What does a high school diploma mean, anyway? Their solution? Require all applicants to take the ACT.

Now, if the POST Commission on police officers and the Department of Human Services regs on daycare workers need to be revised to require ALL applicants to take an ACT test in order to validate and help agencies evaluate their high school diploma, that would be fine.

But DO NOT single out homeschool or church school graduates as if their high school diplomas were suspect, while the public school diplomas are not.

Homeschoolers have every bit as much data to substantiate the success of homeschooling as anything the public schools can point to. For the Department to automatically reject homeschooler’s diplomas is insulting. It could not possibly survive a legal challenge.

If the Department will not overturn their arbitrary and capricious policy, then homeschoolers should pursue remedies in the courts, or in the legislature.

But I am NOT willing to concede that homeschoolers should have to meet any additional testing burdens that are not also imposed on all other high school graduates. A homeschool diploma deserves every bit as much credence (I’d argue more so) than a public school diploma.

The Department of Education’s actions amount to an unsubstantiated, unprofessional, and unjustified attack on homeschooling.

The Department of Education has 1,000,000 students in public schools in Tennessee. Do they really want to pick this fight with homeschoolers?

- Rob Shearer
proud homeschooling dad
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Vice President, Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools.

Since its favorable passage eight days ago by the House Education Committee, HB1652 (the bill to direct the Department of Education to resume recognizing homeschool and church-related school diplomas) has been languishing in the House Calendar & Rules Committee. This Committee is where all bills go when they receive committee approval. Calendar and Rules decides when to schedule floor votes on bills that have been reported out by other committees. The Calendar and Rules Committee (like all the other House committees) is appointed by Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. Here are the members:

Larry Miller, Chair D-Memphis
John Hood, Vice-Chair D-Murfreesboro
Nathan Vaughn, Secretary D-Kingsport
Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon, Rob Briley, D-Nashville, Tommie F. Brown, D-Chattanooga, Frank Buck, D-Dowelltown, Glen Casada, R-Franklin, Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta
Lois Deberry, D-Memphis, John J. DeBerry, Jr., D-Memphis, Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, Ulysses Jones, Jr., D-Memphis, Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, Mark Maddox, D-Dresden, Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroad
Michael McDonald, D-Portland, Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, Gary Odom, D-Nashville, Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, Phillip Pinion, D-Union City, Randy Rinks, D-Savannah, Les Winningham, D-Huntsville

There are 25 members of the committee, 21 Democrats and 4 Republicans. That, unfortunately, might be a fair estimate of the odds of getting HB1652 brought to a vote on the floor. The Democrats control the Tennessee House of Representatives with a 53-46 majority. But, with control and the election of the speaker, they are able to effect such oddities as the stacking of the Calendar and Rules Committee with a 21-4 Democrat majority.

I would STRONGLY urge all homeschooling families to call and email the members of the House Calendar and Rules Committee and respectfully request that they release HB1652 for a vote by the full House of Representatives. You might remind them that the bill is co-sponsored by a Democrat (Rep. Dennis Ferguson) and a Republican (Rep. Mike Bell). There is a good summary of the bill and its history at Kay Brooks’ TNHomeEd site.

For the prospects of the Republicans being able to achieve a majority of the House of Representatives in November 2008, I refer you to this analysis by Steve Gill.

Remember, if this bill does NOT pass, then the Department of Education will have succeeded in invalidating the high school diplomas of thousands of homeschool and church-related school graduates.

For everyone’s convenience, here are the email addresses of all 25 members of the Calendar and Rules Committee: (yawl do know how to do cut & paste, right?),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

- Rob Shearer

The Department of Education has so far succeeded in declaring all homeschoolers’ high school diplomas to be invalid.

Bill Hobbs has a nice summary of what the Department has done:

Cindy Benefield, the Tennesseee Department of Education Executive Director of Field Services, who oversees the state’s homeschooling office, recently declared that a diploma from a church-related school is “not worth the paper it is written on.” That is not just the idle opinion of one uninformed bureaucrat, but has become Department policy. Bredesen’s education commissioner, Tim Webb, told four legislators in April that until the legislature passes a law stating that the diplomas given by church-related schools are acceptable, they aren’t acceptable for certain kinds of employment.

And the state is now preventing people who hold diplomas from church-related schools or home schools from holding certain jobs. For example: a police officer in Roane County, who holds a diploma from a church-related school, then graduated the police academy with perfect grades, has been demoted and prohibited from continuing to serve as a police officer – even though he also graduated from the local community college. The Rockwood police officer has been forced to take a desk job until he takes and passes the GED because the Department of Education says his 2001 diploma from a church-related school is invalid.

The fallout goes beyond that one officer. Suspects he has arrested may be set free because he can not appear as a witness in the case because the state, which regulates the profession, says his diploma is invalid.

Church-related schools (CRS) have been issuing high school diplomas since at least 1975 – and until now, they’ve always been accepted, never been challenged. The bigger irony in this is that the Tennessee university system and the Lottery scholarships continue to accept CRS diplomas. It’s a fair assumption to predict that the Department of Education would like that practice to stop as well.

Rep. Mike Bell’s bill to reverse this stunning policy change escaped the House Ed Committee without being hijacked, but it is now sitting in the Calendar & Rules Committee where it may be quietly allowed to die. If that happens, the Department will have succeeded in disenfranchising thousands of high school graduates by bureaucratic fiat. There are upwards of 40,000 homeschool students in TN. Probably 3,000 of them graduate from high school each year. The Department’s actions not only invalidate the diplomas of this year’s graduating class, they retroactively invalidate the diplomas of thousands who have graduated over the past thirty years.

What’s happening is an outrage. We have a shortage of good police officers. We have a shortage of good daycare workers – but the Department of Education can’t stand it that someone out there might be getting an education outside their control.

- Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center


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